Content marketing is all the rage right now. Like any trend, it’s catching on and becoming more popular, snowballing into a rather large piece of the marketing pie. But, is content marketing here to stay? If it is here to stay, are there right ways and wrong ways to go about it?

When did you first hear about the advertising phenomenon known as content marketing? You could have seen it in a blog article, advertised by a big agency, or maybe you heard it thrown around at a local coffee shop. Regardless of where you first heard it, it’s pretty likely that you’ve heard of it before.

You may think of content marketing only as the latest trend in online promotions, which is simultaneously true and false. Confused yet? Allow me to explain!

There is most definitely a right and wrong way to go about content marketing.

If you haven’t already, right now is a very good time to start marketing content.

While much of the world is still toying with the trendiness of the idea, you can get a jump start on learning about how good content marketing will help bring your business more success, and implement a smart and solid strategy.

What is SMART Content Marketing?

Phil Johnson stated it perfectly in a recent Forbes article when he said, “Better to be valuable to 100 people than to be irrelevant to 1,000.” THAT is smart content marketing. You might see big Fortune 500 companies launching giant content marketing campaigns that help them engage with thousands more customers, but let’s be realistic: small businesses are small by definition. You don’t have to be huge (or reach thousands of new customers) to be successful.

What you do need to do, however, to reach your target market and engage any amount of new customers, is create, distribute and share exceptional content (with emphasis on the CREATE part).

Let’s back that up for just a second. I mean, what is content marketing, REALLY?

The Content Marketing Institute Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing (these guys should know, right? It’s in their name!) as “a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

The goal is the same as it ever was: drive profits through increased customer acquisition. It’s the process that’s changed. Traditional marketing (think cold calling and TV ads) doesn’t produce results the way it used to. The companies (small or big) that see the most success in their respective industries have embraced a culture of consistently offering high-quality content to their customers. They help educate their prospective buyers with valuable industry knowledge. They don’t just try to sell their product. They create a dialogue with their target market about what they know best.

This type of dialectic is offered with the overall intention to attract people who actually need your products or services at the exact moment that they need them.

Once you’ve engaged a potential customer with your helpful, high-quality content, they will be that much more likely to choose you when they do decide to buy, because you’ve already initiated that crucial connection.

The Future of Marketing

There’s likely a question in your mind that we’ve yet to address. “Once I’ve created high-quality content, how do I get my target audience to actually see it?” Good question!

Don’t kid yourself. Creating good content is the number one priority, but getting down to the nitty gritty of SMART content marketing also requires you to market your high-quality content through the right channels and in the right way, so that it reaches the right people.

This is called a content marketing strategy.

Think of content marketing like this: you’re moving the message from an advertisement to your actual brand, and switching your customer engagement from a handshake to a conversation. You’re building a relationship with your customers through your brand. This is what successful marketing looks like in 2013.

I bet you’re wondering, “Is she going to mention SEO at all?” Indeed, I am! Why? Because SEO is important. Without SEO, your content marketing strategy is almost guaranteed to flop.

At one point in time, we lived in a world where “buying links” was tantamount to getting a higher search engine ranking. Google (thank goodness) has forever changed that.

Today, you must create content that is worthy of being shared by like-minded businesses, which generates organic SEO for your website.

Instead of purchasing links on other websites, people will want to link to your work when the content is exceptional. It’s natural, and it’s one of the best ways to increase the search engine ranking for your site.

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Still not-so-sure about content marketing? Want to know more about how it can help improve your web presence? Scared you’ll never learn how to absorb information via osmosis? Contact Posts By GhostTM or leave a comment below!

Image courtesy of Flickr user Calgary Reviews.

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